Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Daunting Task: Inventory, Repair, and a New Look for the Smith Grocery Museum

One of my very favorite places to hang out and reminisce on a regular basis is our almost 100 year old grocery museum. . .It's hard to believe that the building is that old. . .Built in 1919 by my grandfather Earl Magers, the store was located on Second Street in Dell. Over the years, it was rented by several store owners. Granddaddy owned it until ca. 1956, when he deeded it over to my Mom, my brother, and myself. I have such fond memories of the C A Smith Grocery Store from my growing up years that when we moved the building to Duncan Farmstead, no other name for it was right. I was able to use an old photograph to get the sign as much like the original as possible. 

While the exterior of the building resembles C. A.'s store, the interior does not. We were so blessed to have had so many donations from local people that we wanted to incorporate them into a typical company store. Thanks to Marguerite Brownlee and Marcia Partin, we have wonderful store fixtures and glass displays from the Brownlee Store and one of the early Dell Post Offices down to the postal directory. I cannot thank them enough for allowing us to save this part of Dell history. One of the displays dates back to 1903 and was first used in an early Dell establishment.

To fill those displays, in the beginning, I relied on family items and my collections. . .Now, almost ten years later, we have had numerous donations from friends in the Dell area, as well as others who live further away but knew of our project. We are grateful for each and every donation and have assured the donors that these items will continue on here at the historic district in the future. 

Which brings me to the daunting task at hand. It's time to put things in order and inventory each and every item. While listing our inventory, we are also changing the items within the store to better display all the generous donations and less of the family possessions. . .and to reflect the early 20th century time period. 

When we begin to 'restock' the shelves, our plans are to restore the donated items to their original appearance, as much as possible.. Repair, paint, and polish is in the work ahead of us. But first comes the weeding out of personal collections and family items for an estate sale and the inventory of all that will stay with the Historic District. . .Yes, a daunting task. . .but a definite step forward in protecting our local heritage.

We have a LOT of work ahead of us. . .
and we have several changes to make. . .
but I'm excited about the project, 
 knowing it will all come together. . .one day. . .

Thursday, April 6, 2017

History Through Post Cards: Picking Cotton in The Old South

Although I love this prologue from the movie Gone With the Wind, we can only claim a few brief years between the 1920s-40s of any resemblance to the beautiful Old Southern Plantations, and then there were few. It never fails to surprise people when we tour them through the Historic District that cotton farms and plantations here in our part of Northeast Arkansas did not exist before the Civil War--or right after. We were late-comers to the Cotton industry. There were a few family run farms as early as the 1880s but they only farmed a few acres each. Until the early 20th century, it was swampland. No one wanted to move to land that flooded at least two to three times a year.

So, our history slightly differs from that of other Southern states. Yet, we love to speak of the Old Plantations as if they were our own. And anytime a person talks of the Cotton Belt in the South, I'd be willing to bet that there are visions of bent over people in the fields, hand-picking that 'White Gold.'

Large Baskets Were Used in the Fields before the 20th Century

Weaving the Cotton Basket--Before 1910

Cotton Baskets Before 1910

Pick Sacks Were Used During the Early 20th Century


ca. 1910

 All day long it was back-breaking, bent over,  pulling a heavy sack laden 
with Cotton work. . .A quick nap was a luxury. . .

It Took 500 LB of Cotton to Make a Bale

This same scene could be found throughout the South--Weighing Cotton




And. . .after a long, hard day's work. . .it was back to the house. . .
until the Sun came up the next morning and a day of picking Cotton began again.

Coming Soon: History Through Post Cards: Steamboats